Why I Won’t Crit Stories Privately Anymore

It seemed about time again to write a post on why I don’t agree to give people private critiques of their erotic writing.

I’ll make this concise and in point form:

1. I used to. Then I realized that 90% of the requests came from people who wanted praise. Praise doesn’t help you improve your writing; it’s the literary equivalent of a hand job. And if you want a hand-job, I charge. I don’t adhere to the politically correct pedagogical theory that praise is helpful. And there is pretty good psychological data to back me up. Giving praise is EASY. Lazy teachers dole it out like candy, because it’s a fuck of a lot quicker than giving someone detailed critical feedback. I realized after investing hundreds of hours of time constructing serious critical responses, that it wasn’t what was wanted.

2. People who request private critiques are not ready to hear a critique from me. Believe me, the vast majority of feedback you get in a public forum is encouraging and gratifying and mostly useless circle-jerking. And if you’re scared of THAT, be very scared of me.

3. I teach writing. I write on writing. I write on teaching. I’ve been doing this for more than a decade and I get paid to do it.

4. I am interested in formally constructed fiction. I don’t interact with autobiographical sexual experiences or sex blogs or descriptions of personal sexual fantasy as a critical reader. Formally constructed fiction – whether erotic or otherwise – contains a theme, a structured plot, well-developed, realistic characters, and conflict. I am not interested in evaluating anything that does not contain these elements.

5. People assume I’m easy-going because I’m perverse. When in fact I’m probably one of the biggest bitches you are ever likely to come across. Do not mistake perversity for liberality.

6. People assume I am tolerant of their emotional baggage because I’m tolerant of their sexuality. This could not be further from the truth. I may be fascinated and intrigued by your desire to get pissed on or put a clamp on  your lover’s cock, but I’ve got zero tolerance for other people’s insecurities, allergies, sense of entitlement or victim-hood.  They bore the shit out of me. I have my own, thanks.

So… if  you want me to read one of your stories, post it online (to show me you’ve at least worked up the courage to make it public) and send me a link to the story. Do not ask me for feedback. If I read it and like it, I’ll leave a comment. If I don’t have the time to read it, I’ll tell you I can’t. If I didn’t like it, I won’t leave a comment.

That’s the deal.

 

 

  22 comments for “Why I Won’t Crit Stories Privately Anymore

  1. February 10, 2013 at 1:07 am

    Damn. I didn’t even know you gave private critques and now you don’t anymore. I’m always a day late and a dollar short. Humph.

    • February 10, 2013 at 1:09 am

      You I will always read, if I have the time, Tasha. But then, you don’t need any feedback from me.

      • February 10, 2013 at 2:07 am

        You flatter me, RG. I’m not sure if it’s deserved but, thank you!

  2. Try_Anything_
    February 10, 2013 at 1:21 am

    Thanks for your honesty. I can see your point that if you’re scared of what ppl will think then you’re probably not cut out as an erotica blogger. I also recall your “Vanilla” posts which I remember you almost defending, but I think that was a great way to show you are more interested in writing than shocking!

  3. February 10, 2013 at 2:07 am

    I would never make the mistake of thinking you’d be nice or easy – but that’s okay, because I also would never have the balls to ask you for critique ;) maybe in another twenty years or so when I’ve developed a bit!

    • February 10, 2013 at 2:54 am

      You already got feedback from me. I read your first novel and told you I liked it.

      • February 10, 2013 at 7:23 am

        true, but that’s far different from asking someone as intelligent and articulate as you to critique me ;)

        • February 10, 2013 at 4:39 pm

          if I’m so intelligent and articulate, why aren’t I selling any books, huh?

  4. February 10, 2013 at 6:01 pm

    “if I’m so intelligent and articulate, why aren’t I selling any books, huh?”

    Thanks for the reminder! Just bought my copy of Coming Together; it’s been on my “to get” list for too long!

    • February 10, 2013 at 6:28 pm

      Forgot to add to my previous comment:

      I had a friend come to me some time ago after having attended an “erotic writing workshop.” The instructor had only given the cheap hand-job praise you mentioned, when what he really wanted was feedback about his writing.

      His run-on sentences, lack of punctuation or paragraph breaks, and awkward sentence structure needed to be addressed before I could even begin to give any tips on the content itself, and I wondered why the instructor couldn’t have bothered with pointing out those things to him!

      I can entirely understand your choice to refuse private critique, for all the reasons you outlined.

      • Remittance Girl
        February 12, 2013 at 6:48 pm

        And this is exactly what most people are looking for: praise for the content, even when the actual baseline writing skill is in desperate need of address first.

        Yeah, grammar. Whoever had the bright idea to stop teaching it needs to be publicly executed. It has been the worst act of pedagogical innovation ever enacted.

        The problem is, it really takes time and practice to punctuate well, to structure sentences properly, to understand the logic of POV. And so people who just want the literary hand-job are not going to commit to learning curve required to even get to a basic level of clear, communicative writing.

        I think I should have taken shares in the publishing company that put out ‘Eats, Shoots and Leaves”. I have sent it to so many people over the years.

  5. TFP
    February 10, 2013 at 9:04 pm

    RG,

    I remember you did give me feedback a while back and really that’s why I stopped writing. I only pen great work, literary masterpieces, and undiscovered classics that should be at the first display in every book store one sets foot in and you, you RG destroyed all my hopes and dreams because of the simple truths you told me.
    *Getting weepy*

    Okay, okay I’m just being a bit facetious this morning…*Laughs*
    Actually, your criticism was dead on and I welcomed it, I would love to be at least a fair writer someday and how does one do that without at least some critical direction? Like you I have read some work that was pushed on me that was very very bad and the writer only wanted to hear how good it was, therefore I understand your course completely. As you know I’m an admirer of your site and work. How about a salad bar? Nothing like a good salad bar to make things better, right?

    Thank you,
    ~TFP

    • February 11, 2013 at 5:52 pm

      If you stopped writing, then how are you going to be a ‘fair writer’? Hmmm?

      It’s a slow hard climb. I know. I’m still climbing.

  6. Shar
    February 11, 2013 at 12:07 am

    This made me laugh: “5. People assume I’m easy-going because I’m perverse.” But it’s true, isn’t it? Sometimes. Like its corollary, “If you like sex, you must be sweet and loving.”

  7. Candace Fox
    February 11, 2013 at 12:10 am

    THANK YOU. The above-mentioned handjobs are one of the many reasons I hate creative writing workshops. I took a lot of them in college and they were useless to me. Not only could most of my peers not write their way out of a wet paper bag, but the professor handled everyone’s creative ego with kid gloves (and expected all her students to do the same in their own “critiques”). How did that help any of us improve our craft? Um, it didn’t. Those who were talented continued to cleave their way through the jungle of writing unaided, and those who were budding hacks received encouragement they didn’t deserve. It was incredibly disappointing to say the least.

    • Remittance Girl
      February 12, 2013 at 6:41 pm

      I have luckily escaped the cw workshops. But I’ve heard this complaint from almost everyone who has attended them.

  8. Shar
    February 11, 2013 at 12:13 am

    This made me laugh: “5. People assume I’m easy-going because I’m perverse.” But it’s true, isn’t it? Sometimes. Like its corollary, “If you like sex, you must be sweet and loving.”

    It’s #3 that’s my pet peeve, though. A critique–not a couple of comments, but a critique–takes time and thought. It’s not a small thing.

    On the other side, I know taking a critique is hard. God, do I know that. I think it helps to decide in advance what you are willing to change and what you are not. Would you change the length? the point of view? the amount of dialogue? the ending? the tense? and so on. (It is in asking myself these questions that I often discover I know what’s weak in the piece already.) Then, when you get a critique, you’ve either already agreed in your heart that you’re willing to adjust those things that someone else is bothered by, or you’ve already decided that, no matter a reader’s reaction, you’re going to keep a certain element and you know why.

  9. Andre' SanThomas
    February 11, 2013 at 4:55 am

    :) Yet another reason I’ve always loved you!

  10. February 11, 2013 at 8:04 pm

    We need more people who can take harsh criticism and more people who can dole it out. It’s a shame you don’t critique anymore as I think you’re one of the only ones who actually tells the truth. And we need more of that. Although I definitely understand why you wouldn’t want to.

  11. Anon (As no interest in conflict)
    February 16, 2013 at 5:40 pm

    The study linked has no relation to the subject of praise versus critical feedback on performance. No conclusions can be drawn pedagogically; experiments were immediate, short term (single sessions), and only evaluated current performance in a simply task (a video game) and effort in a manual task (sorting cards), not skill acquisition. Hence, it cannot apply to writing, either.

    Simplified summary: The study shows a weak correlation (some replication difficulties) that praise (versus null comments) immediately prior to performance, in a simple skilled task, may cause impaired performance in that evaluation – due to self-consciousness (not reduced effort). It shows increased performance in effort based tasks in the same specific circumstances.

    The study also specifically indicates that conclusions about long term or broader effects should not be extrapolated.

    Note: Praise as an effective pedagogical tool (in combination with others) is based on majority consensus derived through research conducted in sociology, psychology and other behavioral science, not for other reasons.

    • February 17, 2013 at 11:03 pm

      I can draw the pedagogical conclusions of my experience teaching for ten years. And… I’m still not going to crit your story.

  12. February 26, 2013 at 1:15 am

    You’re so right, writing is so much more than people coming up to you and singing praises. You have to take the harsh criticism with everything good that is happening for you. You have to dig into your writing and find out what you can do to make things better.

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